SOKENDAI Review of Cultural and Social Studies


vol.20 (2024)

Huang Tsun-hsien’s Thoughts on Self-government

—Focusing on the Hunan Reform Movement in the Late Qing Dynasty—

SU Wenbo

Department of Japanese Studies,
School of Cultural and Social Studies,
The Graduate University for Advanced Studies, SOKENDAI

Key words:

Huang Tsun-hsien, Liu Tsung-yüan 柳宗元, Ku Yen-wu, feng-chien, chün-hsien, min-ch’üan, Pao- wei chü, Self-Government

After the Opium War, isome Chinese intellectuals who were influenced by “Western Impact” began to seek ways to save their country. Huang Tsun-hsien 黄遵憲 was one of them. He experienced Western political civilization through his career as a diplomat over more than 10 years. After returning to China, Huang Tsun-hsien immediately devoted himself to the reform movement and conducted a Local Self-Government experiment centered on civil rights 民権 in Hunan. This paper focuses on Huang Tsun- hsien, the fi rst counselor of Japan, addressing his self-government thought and practice in the Hunan reform movement. When conducting this research, the following two issues must be considered. Firstly, whether or not Huang’s conception of self- government went beyond the framework of traditional Chinese self-government theory, and secondly, whether or not the nature of the Pao-wei chü 保衛局 in Huang Tsun-hsien’s practice was considered to be a police bureau. Based on previous research, this paper takes these two points as a center and clarifies Huang Tsun-hsien’s conception of self-government. The following two points are indicated as a conclusion.

The first is the meaning of Self-government of moral character, Self-government of hometown 自治其身、自治其郷. There is no doubt that as a traditional intellectual, Huang Tsun-hsien was influenced by the theory of self-government of Ku Yen-wu 顧炎武, the great thinker of the late Ming and early Qing dynasty. However, Huang Tsun-hsien’s conception of self-government did not directly adopt the argument of traditional feng-chien 封建 theorists. His conception crossed the traditional feng-chien - chün-hsien 郡県 theory and involved the concept of modern civil rights. That is, a portion of government power was distributed to the squires and merchants and civil rights were incorporated through decentralization. In this way, Huang thought that it would be possible to eliminate the disadvantages of mutual ignorance 不相習 and short tenure 不久任.

The second is the operating system and the nature of Pao-wei chü. According to the constitution, the leaders of the Pao-wei chü were the officials, squires, and merchants. In other words, businessmen who were discriminated against in the past were included in the local operation management layer for the first time. Also, regarding the nature of the Pao-wei chü, it certainly imitated the police system of Japan, but its nature never stopped at the police bureau as an administrative agency. It was also an institution with a modern “self- governing” nature.